The Australian Open (AO) has officially become the first tennis grand slam in the metaverse with AO Decentraland! The organizer of the AO, Tennis Australia, and Decentraland have partnered up on the event. As with the IRL event, AO Decentraland began on Jan. 17th and will continue until Jan. 30th.
Quotes are condensed and edited for clarity.
Building the AO in Decentraland
In one of the first examples of its kind at this scale, the Australian Open has taken huge elements of its historic live event and replicated it in the metaverse.
The expansive AO Decentraland metaverse includes virtual recreations of iconic AO venues within Melbourne Park. To list just a few, virtual visitors will be able to visit Rod Laver Arena, the Grand Slam Oval, and the New Beach Club, all in Decentraland.
NFT Evening spoke to the two main forces driving the development of the AO Decentraland metaverse to learn more about the project. Ridley Plummer, the Metaverse and NFT Project Manager for the AO, said the following about what inspired Tennis Australia (TA) to embark on such a big project.
“With everything that we do at TA, we want to challenge the norms of what is expected of a business like ours. The Australian Open is fun and experimental – it’s different every year. We push those boundaries in real life, so we took that mentality with the NFT drop and Decentraland.”
AO Decentraland was an exciting challenge for both teams
This is far from the first major event that Decentraland has hosted on its platform. Even so, the AO metaverse is Decentraland’s longest multiday event so far.
Adam De Cata, Director of Run it Wild and Decentraland’s Head of Partnerships, mentioned the chance to do an extended event as one of the things that were of interest to Decentraland. Speaking about his partners at the AO, he added,
“What the AO has been able to do with its IP, and the access and the trust they’ve given us is the reason why we’ve been able to push the boundaries this far. And I think that’s a testament to IP that’s flexible enough to really take risks. It’s pushed the boundaries of what it could be because it’s easy to become complacent in what has already worked.”
Notably, the impressive metaverse from the AO and Decentraland came together in just three months. Indeed, it was quite the task that the teams took on. While this may be true, Plummer noted how the AO felt it needed to break new ground in the metaverse with its Decentraland partnership.
“I think we knew that we were biting off a big chunk. But I’m glad we did because I think it’s shown what’s possible in this space for a sporting organization or a rights holder or an event. And I think that’s really important.”
Art Ball NFTs add match-point metadata as the tournament goes on
Running up to the event, Tennis Australia released a collection of 6,776 AO Art Ball NFTs on Jan. 13th. What’s more, the entire collection sold out in just 3 minutes.
One of the most interesting things about the Art Ball NFTs is that each ball corresponds to a specific location (plot) on a tennis court. During the tournament, the AO logs the position of every single match point. Then it updates the metadata of the NFTs to show which NFTs represent match-winning plots.
This is a particularly interesting proposition. To explain, imagine having the NFT that represented the winning point in a classic match from the tournament. Or even the final championship matches of the AO.
In essence, that is the exact utility that the AO can add through uploading this data. It adds the feel of an NBA Top Shot – with NFTs representing iconic NBA highlights – to an existing generative NFT collection, with the random allocation of plots giving an added lottery feel. There are also some other perks of the AO Art Balls that we covered in our article announcing the AO Decentraland Metaverse.
Speaking about this exciting aspect of the collection, Plummer noted that this utility came organically as the project developed. “We wanted to do the NFT project, and the collectability element of it just gives it that intrinsic value that we didn’t know was going to happen while we were building the project. It has naturally evolved into that,” he said.
Tennis Australia committed to a long-term metaverse experience
While many big brands have been rushing into the metaverse and NFTs to catch the hype train, the AO isn’t one of them. To that end, Plummer noted that AO Decentraland is just the first step in a long-term play for Tennis Australia. He said,
“I think we’ve been incredibly successful in what we wanted to achieve. And at the same time, we keep innovating the AO in real life, like we’re going to do here. So what’s important is that this is not going away anytime soon. The AO is absolutely in this for the long run.”
All in all, AO Decentraland helps Tennis Australia reach one of its major goals. Namely, to host “the world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event”. To be sure, this position bodes well for the future of the AO metaverse.